For Brittany’s postdoctoral research, she plans to develop methods to biochemically characterize two prophage proteins that have been implicated to cause cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI), a form of reproductive parasitism in arthropods. These two genes, cifA and cifB, are present within the prophage WO genome within Wolbachia and directly interact with fly ligands to manipulate sperm. Localization and affects on sperm integrity by these two proteins will be the focus of her research in the coming months.
PhD Dissertation Research
For her PhD work, Brittany worked on how bacteriophage affect symbiotic bacterial communities within the gut of metazoans. The model system she studied was that of Ciona intestinalis, an invasive sea squirt. Ciona is a tunicate with a species-specific (“core”) community of gut microbes that are established and maintain a homeostatic relationship with the host immune system, other microbes and infective bacteriophage (phage). This dialogue between all members of the microbial community is essential for host health. In vitro culture of core members of bacteria and specific phage along with purified immune proteins allow manipulation and interpretation of the specific interactions within this delicate balance. Additionally, because Ciona intestinalis has its entire genome sequenced, she was able to track a number of immune genes in response to manipulation of the community with phage and other factors.